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Bill gives nurses greater voice in staffing decisions

On May 20, The Texas house approved the hospital-nursing bill issued by senator Jane Nelson. This bill will address the nursing shortage and possibly lower the turnover rate. Senator Nelson represents district 12 and is the chairman of the senate committee on Health and Human Services.

This bill is better known as Senate Bill 476 that pertains to providing nurses with a greater voice and reconstructing the nursing staff committee.

Senate Bill 467 will require that patient care nurses comprise at least 60 percent of the committee’s membership and ensure that the committee reports directly to the hospital board.

It will also create a toll-free hotline to inform the public about insurance available in Texas, require that the committee staffing plans be reported to the Department of State Health Services and prohibits mandatory overtime policies.

“At a time when our state is in dire need of nurses, we cannot afford to lose good hospital nurses due to mandatory overtime and grueling schedules,” said Senator Nelson. “This legislation will help retain bedside nurses and ensure that they have a voice in issues such as nurse-patient ratios, work schedules and other issues affecting patient care.”

The American Journal on Nursing estimates the annual turnover rate for hospital nurses at 13 percent, and if it continues to grow, it is predicted by the federal government to be 30 percent by 2020. The main cause for this turnover is said to be grueling schedules and mandatory overtime.

“Having kids at home and all the responsibilities of a family make it hard to imagine including mandatory overtime. Nurses have an extremely stressful job and should not be expected to put in overtime if it is not feasible according to their schedule,” said Renee Gandy, nursing major.

Senate bill 476 prohibits a hospital from requiring mandatory overtime, except in emergency situations, such as a natural disaster,and allows nurses to refuse to work mandatory overtime. The refusal won’t be considered abandonment or neglect to their patients. It will, however, allow overtime to any nurse who wants it.

The Senate bill will also establish a nursing staff committee as a committee for the entire hospital. This committee will represent the nursing body as a whole as well as set composition, duties and responsibilities for the rest of the committee.

“We have a standing committee of the hospital,” said Bobbie Ogg, chief nursing officer. “It doesn’t change a whole of how we already operate. We already have the committee in place and operating. What it does change is the frequency that we meet that now is quarterly, four times a year. It’s now comprised of 60 percent direct care nurses.”

The committee is also required to review, assess and respond to staffing concerns. They will identify nurse sensitive outcome measures the committee will use to evaluate the effectiveness of the official nurse services staffing plan.

They will also submit to the hospital’s governing body, at least semiannually, quality indicators, nurse satisfaction measures collected by the hospital and evidence-based nurse staffing standards.

The Senate Bill will also implement a nurse staffing policy and plan. It will require that staffing plans be based on the needs of each patient care unit and shift, settling the nursing budget as well as encourage nurse to provide input about staffing concerns.

“It’s too early to tell since the bill was just passed in May and come into law Sept. 1. It will take time to implement everything,” said Ogg.

The Bill has already been approved and will take affect at every Texas hospital no later than January 1, 2010.

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